POLITICS
21/09/2020 10:40 BST | Updated 21/09/2020 10:57 BST

Pubs Might Be Closed By The Weekend, Matt Hancock Suggests

"It's not a no and it's not a yes," the health secretary says.

Matt Hancock has refused to guarantee that pubs will be open this weekend as the government mulls over new coronavirus restrictions.

The health secretary said there would be no return to the full lockdown seen in March, stressing restrictions would be “different to last time”.

But he could not say whether pubs will be ordered to shut by the weekend and indicated that Boris Johnson would be setting out new restrictions on Tuesday.

It comes amid a surge in Covid-19, which the prime minister has dubbed the beginning of a “second wave” and ahead of a televised briefing on infection rates from chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Asked by Philip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning whether Britons would be drinking in the pub this weekend, Hancock said: “We will be absolutely clear about the changes we need to make in the very, very  near future.”

He added: “It’s not a no, and it’s not a yes, we’ve been working on this all weekend, we haven’t taken the final decisions about what we want to do in response to the surge that we’ve seen in the last two weeks. 

Whitty is expected to say the UK stands at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic and warned that the data on infections is “heading in the wrong direction”.

On Friday, the “R” rate jumped again to between 1.1 and 1.4 and daily infection numbers peaked over 4,000 last week for the first time since May.

Millions of people are already living under some form of restrictions under the government’s “whack-a-mole” local lockdown strategy.

But amid failures in the test and trace system, the prime minister is expected to announce new national restrictions that go beyond the so-called “rule of six” that came into force last week.

Hancock stressed that any new restrictions would focus on social activity rather than schools or workplaces.

He also suggested that any new restrictions would focus on social settings rather than schools or the workplace.

He said: “The evidence is … schools aren’t where a lot of the transmission happens, it’s more about people socialising.”

He pointed out that there were already parts of the country where “there are measures in place to say that you shouldn’t socialise with people outside your household”.

Hancock said the government was expecting the mass rollout of a vaccine in the early part of next year and suggested things could return to some kind of normality by next summer.

“In terms of the things that affect everyday life, I really hope if this vaccine or one of the vaccines comes off in the early bit of next year, we are looking I hope by next summer to be through this.”